I think of Europe when I think of the quintessential ski lunch: long, leisurely, and gourmet. For too long, on-mountain “dining” in the U.S. has focused on food courts and grills. While I wouldn’t want to take an hour or two out of every ski day, sometimes it’s nice to have the option to splurge, relax and enjoy a meal far beyond the ubiquitous bowl of chili and french fries.
The Lynn Britt Cabin, Snowmass.
Inspired by the ranching cabins once found on the slopes of Snowmass, the Lynn Britt Cabin is anything but rustic. Distinctly western, it’s casually elegant, but also cozy. It’s a perfect place to take a break from the elements (on a cold day) or take in the views and the sunshine from an outdoor table (on a warm day). Either way, you’ll get an amazing meal and a well-deserved rest in the middle of your ski day.
Lunch at the Lynn Britt Cabin is prix fixe for two courses: soup or salad and an entree. The menu is Colorado-inspired, with classics such as Steak Au Poivre and Colorado Trout. Daily specials include Elk Stroganoff, Bison Meatloaf and Colorado Lamb. My husband and I visited on a Sunday and the special was cassoulet with white beans, pork sausage and duck confit. It was unbelievably delicious and warming. For my first course, I had roasted tomato soup with just enough spicy-zing to make it unique. My husband had a Caesar salad, with plenty of anchovies, and the Bison Stew. After two courses, he still had room for the chocolate-infused bread pudding. Beverages and dessert are not included, but are worth the splurge. The old-time ranchers never had it so good.
In addition to lunch each day, the Lynn Britt Cabin serves dinner on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Snowcats depart the base village and take guests up to the Cabin for dinner. A family friendly event, these are five course dinners, with options for kids, and include live music. Reservations are recommended for both lunch and dinner, 970-923-8715.
Bon Vivant, Telluride.
Located at the top of the Polar Queen lift (Chair 5), Telluride’s newest restaurant, Bon Vivant, is 100% outdoors. As unlikely as it sounds to feel cozy at over 10,000 feet in the dead of winter, the plein air dining at Bon Vivant is delightful. Jake Linzinmeir, Executive Director of Culinary Services, has combined a traditional French bistro menu with locally sourced products, including lamb, beef, and cheeses. A perfectly baked, flaky crust covers not only traditional French onion soup, but also a tender short rib, turning a traditional starter into a main course. A fresh, crisp frise and baby beet salad is dressed up with Colorado goat cheese brulee – portions of cheese sprinkled with raw sugar and flamed. Sheep herding has a long and distinguished history in these mountains, so any locally-based menu must include lamb. The Lamb and Chimay Ale Stew is traditional, warm and hearty. A full French wine list is available, as are several delectable desserts, including the “don’t miss” nutella and berry crepes.
Bon Vivant seats 70 and does not accept reservations. On sunny days, the restaurant is completely open to the mountain views with seating on a large deck rimmed with heaters. When it is cloudy or cold, a 39-foot heated umbrella is opened, which gives Bon Vivant a more intimate feel.
Something Special At Night
Ragnar’s, Steamboat. Norwegians brought skiing to Steamboat over 100 years ago. In celebration of the area’s nordic heritage, on-mountain Ragnar’s restaurant serves a five-course Scandinavian-inspired dinner on Fridays and Saturdays during ski season. Guests take the gondola to Thunderhead and then transfer to an open-air snowcat-driven sleigh. The sleigh whisks them across the mountain to Ragnar’s, where diners choose from entrees such as Pomegranate Duck, Seafood Puff Pastry, and that local Norwegian favorite, elk. Reservations are required, 970-871-5150.
The Lodge at Sunspot, Winter Park. On Friday and Saturday nights, Winter Park’s mountaintop lodge serves a romantic five-course dinner. Located at the top of the Zephyr Express chairlift, enclosed gondola cars are added to the lift to transport diners up the mountain in comfort. At two-miles high, the stars are incredible on clear nights and as the days grow longer, the panoramic views of the Continental Divide and the Rocky Mountains are inspirational. While I haven’t dined there myself, I’ve been told the food is fantastic too. For reservations, call 970-726-1446
C.B. Grille, Copper Mountain. Copper Mountain is a power-to-the-people resort with its retro ’70s vibe and egalitarian lunch pricing, so it’s not surprising that there is no on-mountain option for fine dining. In the evenings however, the C.B. Grille offers an American-Fusion menu, featuring unique pastas, seafood, lamb and steak. Located just outside the main base village near the Covered Bridge, the C.B. Grille serves up family-friendly dinner and drink specials from 5:00-7:00 p.m. each night, 970-968-3113.
Europe has its pleasures, but one thing’s for sure — in the USA, Western ski areas serve far better fare than their Eastern cousins. New Mexico is my top state for cafeteria food, but I’ve had surprisingly (at least to this ex-Eastern boy) reasonably priced and tasty food in California, Utah and Colorado, too.